After 1,868 regular season games and 88 playoff matches over 29 seasons, NHL linesman Mike Cvik is hanging up his skates.
The man they call ‘Honda’ has proven to be as reliable and long-running as his namesake. He currently ranks second among active linesman in regular season games worked, trailing only Brad Lazarowich, who’s worked 1,949.
By our unofficial count, Cvik ranks ninth all time among NHL linesmen in games worked, trailing Ray Scapinello (2,500), Gerard Gauthier (2,345), Randy Mitton (2,109), Mark Pare (2,105), Dan Schachte (2,001), Leon Stickle (1,987), Kevin Collins (1,964), and Lazarowich.
Cvik made his National Hockey League debut on October 8, 1987, working an 8-2 Vancouver Canucks win over the St. Louis Blues. He spoke about that game on Sportsnet 960:
“What do I remember [about that game]? Oh, the three offsides I missed in the first period with the closest one probably about four feet [over the line], and then my boss comes in at the end of the first period kicking a garbage can across the room telling me I’ve got to be better than that, that he didn’t hire me to miss offsides.”
It was a big jump for Cvik, who made the transition directly from the WHL to the NHL, due in part to his 6-foot-9 frame. The NHL’s Scotty Morrison and John McCauley were looking for bigger linesmen to help handle the league’s bigger fighters. The tall linesman with the long reach was well-suited to help break up the pugilistic powerhouses of the late ’80s.
For a guy who made a living breaking up fights, Cvik’s done a great job avoiding getting caught in the middle of them. Only once has his nose been broken. Cvik attempted to break up a fight between Shawn Cronin and Ronnie Stern when he suffered the injury.
“Cronin went to jump Ronnie Stern and I thought I’d play Superman and try to get in between them,” said Cvik. “I went in headfirst and proceeded to meet Shawn’s fist with my nose.”
His worst injury happened in 1994 during a fight between Stu Grimson and Jeff Odgers.
“A skate came up and went across the back of my hand and severed tendons,” Cvik told the Calgary Sun. “When it happened the doctor told me ‘you’ll never have complete grip.’ I still can’t completely make a fist.”
The veteran linesman has working his share of big games. Cvik was selected to work the 1998 All-Star Game alongside fellow 6-foot-9 linesman Shane Heyer and referee Paul Stewart. He took part in the 2011 Tim Horton’s Heritage Classic between the Habs and the Flames. Cvik was also on the ice for Wayne Gretzky’s record-setting 802nd goal.
His most memorable game, though, was the Gold Medal Game between Canada and the US at the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002. Cvik worked that game alongside Finnish linesman Antti Hamalainen and with referee – and fellow Canadian – Bill McCreary,
“I’ll never forget, when we left the hotel at 9:30 in the morning, there were fans gathered outside the building chanting, ‘Go Canada Go!’ and ‘USA! USA!’ Just the historical happening of what that game meant between Canada and the US is one that I’ll never ever forget.”
Cvik shared a post-game moment with the Saskatoon Star Phoenix:
“We were so honoured to be part of that game. We wanted to do what we needed to do and hopefully the best team won. . . . We went over to [American goaltender] Mike Richter and said, “You played a hell of a game. Don’t hang your head.” He thanked us.
Then the next thing we know, here comes [Canadian coach] Pat Quinn lumbering across the ice. [Referee] Bill [McCreary] and I looked at each other and we’re thinking, “What’s he doing coming over here? He won. He can’t be getting ready to scream at us.” But he just said, “You guys were in a tough position and you did a hell of a job. You should be proud of yourselves.”
Advice for Younger Officials
Advice to younger officials from Cvik: Work every game like it's your last.
— Justin Slimm (@justinslimm) January 5, 2016
Learn the niches of the game, read the play, memorize tendencies. Be proactive and you'll be fine.
— Justin Slimm (@justinslimm) January 5, 2016
On His Retirement
The 53-year old veteran knew retirement was coming. He spoke with Rob Kerr about the process:
“Being a senior official, we have a clause in CBA that states that the league can come to negotiate an exit strategy so it’s not ‘Boom – door closes – you’re gone.’
“Last summer it came to a head where, you know, [I was told] this is what’s going to happen,” Cvik told Sportnet 960’s Rob Kerr. “I tried to negotiate to the end of the season but it just wasn’t going to happen. I was fortunate enough to get the half year this year and through the half year I got to negotiate some cities I wanted to be in, some things I wanted to do… The league was very accommodating. They’ve been fantastic.”
Cvik officiated 37 games this season, just shy of halfway to the 77 games normally handled by each linesman during the season.
“It’s been a pretty good journey and a nice end to a career,” said Cvik.
That career will come to a close Tuesday night, as the Tampa Bay Lightning take on the Calgary Flames. Cvik will hit the ice for the final time alongside linesman Brian Murphy and referees Wes McCauley and Kelly Sutherland.
“At some point, I think it will be emotional,” said Cvik who will have, amongst others, his mother, sister and three of his four daughters at his final game. “Standing between the benches during that commercial I’ll look around the rink and delve into some memories.”
“I don’t know if it will hit me that night or the next day. I’ll miss my band of brothers.”
Congratulations to linesman Mike Cvik on a terrific career.
Wishing him a very happy retirement!
Listen to Cvik’s full interview with Sportsnet 960’s Rob Kerr which covered his career, retirement, memorable players and officials, and the one time the officials needed a police escort to their hotel. Listen now; it’s a terrific interview.
Updated to correct total games worked by NHL linesmen.